With a smile I remember an afternoon spent with Gary Sawyer, PMM reader and owner at the time of both a 64-foot Malahide trawler and Fidalgo Bay Coffee. Gary and his staff gave me a tour of their roasting facility as well as educate me on the art of brewing fine coffee.
What I never expected was how that article resonated within the PMM community. For years after, trawler owners would show me their boat…and their coffee machines. It was a source of pride, no matter how big or small the boat. Having good coffee is important for the daily routine. I especially recall touring the galley of an 85-foot Northern Marine trawler yacht, with a built-in chromed and brass coffee machine as elegant as any cathedral pipe organ.
Without repeating all the information in that article (unless people want to hear it again), the best way to make truly good coffee is with a French press. A Melitta or Mr. Coffee drip system (and those dreadful Keurig systems) under extract flavor from the ground coffee because water passes over the coffee once, making it impossible to get the fullness of flavor from the coffee. And the other extreme, the percolator type of coffeepots, do just the opposite, with boiling water repeatedly pouring over the grounds. This over extracts the flavor and oils from the ground coffee, producing a higher level of sourness, disguised as more flavor. This increased acidity and bitterness is why some people give up coffee.
A quick review of the French press, or press pot: Start with cold fresh, filtered water and heat to just under boiling, ideally 198–204 degrees (just before the whistling starts from your kettle). Pour this water into the press, making sure to cover the coarsely-ground coffee completely, stir thoroughly, and wait four or five minutes. Then you slowly push down the mesh screen and pour yourself a wonderful cup of coffee.
Several years later I learned of issues with excess caffeine, as well as terpenes, oils in the ground coffee that raise cholesterol levels. Terpenes are filtered out in paper filters, but remain present in press-style coffee makers.
So I did some thinking and came up with a better way for me to enjoy coffee. I still use the French press, for all the above reasons, but I added a step to the process. Instead of pushing down the mesh filter, after four or five minutes, I pour the coffee, grounds and all, into a modified Melitta cone filter with paper filter. This removes both the potential issues of terpenes and eliminates any “mud” one typically find at the bottom of a coffee cup when using a press.
As I only want to filter the fresh coffee, I modified my Melitta cone by drilling a much larger hole in the bottom of the cone. Coffee quickly passes through the paper filter and into the thermos.
While some may argue that the oils and mud add flavor to pressed coffee, I can live without them and the people who drink my coffee seem to agree. All the maximum flavor benefits of a French press without potential side effects.
I also learned that storing coffee is best down in a dark pantry in a vacuum-sealed container. Storing coffee in the fridge or freezer is no longer considered a good thing. The whole or ground beans can pick up food odors.
My wife still smiles when I bring her coffee in the morning in her favorite mug. A great way to start the day.
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